Sorting out stuff
I went to my friend T's house for an hour or so last night. I'd printed a couple of photos of her and our mutual friend Mo, and wanted to give them to her before they disappeared under one of the piles of papers currently strewn across my floor and my bed. It took me almost 6 months to get round to giving her the last set that I took, of a couple of her friends, and the two of us outside her apartment block on Loi Kratong (in November last year). I needed to give them to her there and then. Once my room's paper monster's gotten it's teeth around them, they're gone, forever...
I called her to say that I was coming over and to ask what time she'd be back from work. She said she wasn't feeling too good. She'd been to a concert the night before and felt exhausted. I promised not to come too late or to stay for too long. When can you come? she asked. She was already on her way home, and I could hear the taxi driver's radio in the background.
'In 20 minutes. Is that OK with you?
'Really? 20 minutes ? Are you sure ?'
Tuk and I are good friends. She's knows that having been in Bangkok a while, my western notions of time, and of trying to be punctual when meeting up with people have been long since been abandoned. 'Sure' I said. 'I'm on my way now.'
I wasn't lying. I was sat on the step outside my building and was ready to go. I'd had a lousy day. I'd promised myself that I was going to tidy my room and I wasn't going anywhere until it was done. Completely done... But, as with the last 3 weekends, I'd found it difficult. I'm finding it really hard to sort through my stuff. I'd wanted to go out on my bike. It was sat by my wardrobe, almost taunting me. 'Finish and you can take me out' it seemed to say. But the more I looked at my stuff, the more I realised I'd got no chance. It'd be dark before my stuff was even half sorted. I was sure of it.
Why am I finding it so hard to organize my stuff ? For a start I have way too much of it. When I first moved into my room I didn't have that many things. A backpack, a suitcase stuffed full of clothes, a couple of boxes of books, my camera and a few CD's and DVD's. But now, its almost stuffed full.
A couple of weeks ago my mission was to get rid of everything on the floor. My friend's mum was coming to visit. She's Thai, and Thai people generally (especially older ones) don't like to put things on the floor. Traditionally the floor's seen as being dirty, and the only things that are supposed to go on it (other than bed, chair and table legs) are mats and feet. At school we're told not to tell our children to put books on the floor. Books are percieved as being full of knowledge. To put something so important on a floor is seen as being really rude, and disrespectful to the book.
My friend's mum's an English teacher at a poor rural school on in Naan. I thought that she might want to look through my teaching books, as she'd already told me that she was looking for new ideas, and ways to teach the topics that have been assigned to her this term. I planned to let her take a look at my books and would make copies of any that she liked. The easiest place to do this would be my room. I had no excuse but to make it look presentable.
Not counting a quick trip to Pata (the local department store), to buy a set of A4 sized plastic trays, this little job, looking at the stuff on my floor and moving them elsewhere took almost 3 hours to finish. As I went through my things, and moved them, I put anything that I couldn't sort out onto my bed. Now my floor's fine. But, one 1/2 of my bed is a book and paper filled mess instead.
OK, I had a lot of stuff to try and organise, but that wasn't the main reason why it took so long. I couldn't just move things, put them into a tray or pile them onto my bed like I'd planned. Everytime I looked at something, and picked it up, I started thinking about where it had come from and why. Whether it was something that was still important to me or not. If it wasn't mine I did my best to try and rememeber who had lent it to me, whether they are likely to want it back or not, and if so, made vague promises to myself to return them.
I'm a hoarder. Once something's found its way into my room, I find it really hard to find a good reason to get rid of it.
I'm not sure where most of my stuff has come from. I don't normally buy that much. Other than a couple of souvenier T-shirts and 3 yellow 'we love the King shirts' that I needed to wear for school last December I've hardly ever brought clothes here. The main things I seem to have spent my money on since I've moved house are books and DVD's, and way to many of these for my liking.
A lot of the things I needed to go through were things that I've acquired. I've lots of stuff from other travellers and people I've hung out with from time to time. I've movies and books that belonged to my old roommate. I don't really want them but, at the same time, stilll can't face throwing or giving them away either. There's also CD's that I've never listened to, cutlery, plastic trays and dishes and an electric toaster that I've never used.
Most of the things I have trigger memories, good or bad, about places that I've been to, people I've met or things I've seen. For example, just on top of my telly, I've plastic sunflowers from Lopburi , a wooden buffalo from the folk museum in Phitsanulok (if anyone's ever passing through there, that and the place where they cast the buddha images are well worth a visit.... ) a bright pink octopus from one of the beaches I went to in Prachuab Kirikhan, and a couple of pottery animals from Dan Kweeyan, a pottery village near the school where I worked as a volunteer teacher last summer.
I've got a mobile, a souvenier of my first trip to Korat and badges to celebrate everything from the King's birthday to the fact that I survived a whitewater rafting trip up north last year. There's also a coat hook full of security passes, some from GuChart, the big anti-government protests the company I used to work for helped organise the year before last and some from the Ghost festival in Loei. Plus no end of fridge magnets, postcards, photos and tour booklets.
I've also got tons of Thai childrens books. I used to buy a new one each week, the year before last, when I was trying to learn to how to read Thai. They should be easy enough to get rid of. I know lots of people with kindergarten aged kids but, I keep telling myself that I don't want to give them away just yet. I want to read them again one day, to check that I still can, before I let someone else have them. Tomorrow maybe.... but, as with the cliche, tomorrow never comes.
I have 4 notebooks full of vocab. from my old job too. Its funny to look at them now. Seeing words like 'satellite dish', 'network ' written in English and phonetic Thai, with very wobbly looking 'real' Thai letters next to them. My writing was way neater 2 years ago. My 'ก','ภ' and,'ถ's nearly all pointed in the right direction too.
They're messy. I don't need them now and will probably never need to look at them again. Most people would see them as worthless junk. They are worthless junk. They should go in the bin. But, they're kind of special to me. I got hooked into reading them again, working out which words I could still remember now, and finding yet another excuse to hold onto them for a just a wee bit longer.
4 hours had passed. I'd had enough of yet another failed attempt at tidying up for 1 day. I was getting too sentimental, wallowing in memories, conjouring up excuse after excuse to keep my things and steadfastly refusing to 'sort' anything. I decided to give up and go and meet my friend instead.
She lives on the other side of the Chao Phraya River, a 20 to 30 minute walk away from my house. At night I tend to walk. I like walking over Pinklao bridge. I like to stare at the trails of car headlights streaming down towards Sanam Luang, or up towards the fly over, the golden strings supporting Rama 8 Bridge, the guys with the longest fishing reels in the world, who sit patiently on Pinklao bridge, rods dangling into the river below. There's always a nice breeze, and it feels good to be walking somewhere, rather than being crushed onto a bus or freezing to death in an air-con cab. In the daytime, when it's too hot to walk, I prefer the boat.
I'd just missed the direct boat. It was Saturday. The next one wasn't due for another 20 minutes so I walked under the bridge and took the 3baht, rustbucket of a ferry over the river instead. I followed the path along the riverside. It was hot and sticky. A couple of longtail boat drivers said hello and gave me their sales speil. "Go to snake farm, orchid, floating market, very cheap...." I said no.
10 minutes later I arrived at the park by my old work. I saw a couple of the cleaners, playing with their kids and stopped to said a quick hi. 5 minutes later later I was in the glass walled lift in T's condo block, staring at the Bangkok skyline. I'd picked a good time to arrive. Last night's sunset was awseome. BKK's trademark tower blocks silhoutted against a firey pink sky.
I said my hello's to T and asked how she was as she's not been too well recenlty. I gave her the photos and had just sat down on her floor when my phone rang.
My friend T, (this time a male friend) was returning my call. I've called him a lot over the last couple of days and I feel a bit guilty about it. I only ever seem to call him when I'm on a downer, or when I want to complain about school or work. He's a good person to talk to. He's a very good listener, and usually offers good advice. I always tell him that, one day I will help him with his English. I always end up speaking Thai.
My friend Tuk heard me on the phone, could understand every single word my bad Thai and immediately sensed that something was wrong. I hadn't even finished talking to T when Tuk said, "you have problems with your friends again?"
I finished my phone call. Tuk continued... "You always have problems with your friend. I know why, but I can't tell you. You won't like it when I tell you why."
She didn't know the person, the story, or my disappointment that the quick trip home I was hoping to make in November, has probably fallen through. But, the way she spoke, it was like she knew something, some secret reason why seem to I end up in the situations I do. Some explanation why my dealings with some of my Thai friends often leave me leave me feeling awkward and confused.
I asked her to he honest, totally honest with me. She normally is, or at least I'd like to believe that she normally is. She told me that I'd be angry with her. The things that she was about to say were not very nice, and that being Thai she shouldn't normally say them. It's not polite to be too negative about someone here. I said no way. I preferred honesty. For almost a week I'd been craving reasons, seeking answers. Honest answers. I'd got nothing. Any, no matter how difficult to understand or accept would do.
For a Thai person she was butually honest. I wasn't quite expecting the hour and a bit long character assasination that followed, and in true Thai style, I was expected to listen, not to try and justify my actions, make excuses or argue back.
To summarise what she said:-
* I'm not strong.
* I never care about my apperance anymore.
* I worry too much about other people.
* I'm not very 'girley'
* The way I speak Thai make it sound like I have a very big ego. I sound like I don't care about other people and what they do, only about myself.
* I'm too quick argue back. I never accept other people's explanations or reasons.
* I don't smile much
* I don't respect Thai culture at all. I know what people do. I understand why they do them, but I don't do them myself.
Explanations of all of these coming up...
|Create Date : 16 กันยายน 2550
|Last Update : 20 กันยายน 2550 14:23:02 น.
|Counter : 145 Pageviews.